By Carmen, Ikon Youth Programme member
Set across three different rooms, the work of Dinh Q. Lê, Janet Mendelsohn and Kelly Mark is as diverse as it is connected. All three exhibitions focus on the contrasting relationship between the individual and the space they inhabit; whether this be natural, urban or psychological. Changing from a large-scale film to a series of photographs to an intimate split-screen film was a surreal experience for me, yet demonstrated how unique pieces of art can link together across an overarching theme.
Dinh Q. Lê, The Colony
Even before entering Dinh Q. Lê’s The Colony I was overwhelmed by the immense soundscape that featured distorted human voices, orchestral music and crashing waves. The chaotic music submerges you in the alien world of the islands off the West coast of Peru and their inhabitants, the vast flocks of birds and the workers who collect the bird excrement, guano, for a living. Projected on the walls of the gallery, the huge scale of the film emphasises its cinematic quality. Much of The Colony was filmed using drone technology, allowing Lê to explore the desolate beauty of the islands from the perspective of the birds and workers themselves. The abandoned houses and football fields contrast with the energy and movement of the birds and the workers who appear insignificant in comparison to the deserted land on the islands. The screens on the floor of the gallery show footage from conflicts between Vietnamese and Chinese boats and the U.S. navy in international waters around the islands which I found interesting due to Lê’s personal interest in the history of colonialism and violence that the islands were previously, and still are, exposed to. Although the islands seem distant, Lê’s use of the huge scale of the video footage and absorbing soundtrack draws you into the very real and very contemporary life in The Colony.
Janet Mendelsohn, Varna Road
Whereas The Colony explores the relationship between nature and human conflict, Varna Road by Janet Mendelsohn offers an insight into the life of the community of Balsall Heath during the 1960s, with a focus on young woman known as Kathleen. What struck me most about Mendelsohn’s photographs is the continual presence and fusion of different cultures, reflective of the diverse community of Balsall Heath. Often the women are at the forefront of the photographs, emphasising their strong role within the community, which really captured my attention as the 1960s are often deemed the age in which women began to assert their independence.
Kelly Mark, 108 Leyton Avenue
108 Leyton Avenue by Kelly Mark is located in a similarly domestic setting, although it deals with an internal rather than external relationship. The stream of consciousness between the two identical images of Mark herself debate the ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’, an ongoing conflict which is also seen in The Colony. The enclosed space of Ikon’s Tower Room adds to the introspective dialogue that has an impact as strong as the visual power of Varna Road and The Colony.
Exhibitions continue until 3 April 2016.
Click here to find out about Ikon’s Youth Programme.